In the halcyon days before the bottom dropped out of real estate, Las Vegas was the stairway to heaven for high-rise living. Locals and out-of-state investors put real and promised money down on luxury and near-luxury condos amid the assumption that prices would rise faster than the steel beams that would hold them up.
Reality, in the form of a national real estate crash, brought those lofty dreams back to earth, where they remained through the ensuing value plummet and the slow crawl back up to something beginning to resemble real estate normalcy.
Now, the high-rise market in Las Vegas is beginning to show life again as units sold are increasing and a renewed interest is forming in the unique offering that high-rise living in Las Vegas presents, according to Gordon Miles, president of Berkshire-Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, which moved more of those high-rises than any other entity last year.
“It’s been the first year since 2011 that we’ve seen an increase in the number of units sold,” he said. “So, that’s a positive sign.”
According to an analysis by Equity Title of Nevada, there were 733 high-rise sales in 2015, compared to 636 the year prior, and the number of sales had been declining steadily since 887 changed hands in 2011. In luxury home sales, $1 million and above, the last three years have been somewhat steady, with 341 sales in 2013, 319 in 2014 and 359 last year.
It’s a somewhat different audience today than before the fall when a high percentage of buyers were investors who planned to hold for resale, Miles said.
Now interest in Las Vegas high-rise living comes increasingly more from the international crowd and people around the country who are here for lifestyle and sometimes tax reasons. It’s a second, third and sometimes fourth home for some Vegas high-rise buyers, he said, and some are trading the large ranch-style home and yard for an expansive unit well off the ground.
“It’s almost like duplicating a large mansion on a huge piece of property,” he said.
While sitting in the living room of a penthouse for sale for nearly $8 million atop the Turnberry Towers, Miles postulated that Las Vegas really is inexpensive when compared to other metro areas famous for that lifestyle.
“When you look at a place like Manhattan or Singapore, some of the places where they are $5,000 a square foot plus — that’s on the low side — where we’re around $1,200 a square foot for some of these incredible properties, it makes it look like a bargain,” Mile said. “Maybe not a bargain to everyone, but a bargain.”
It’s not just the fabulous view of the Strip and the Las Vegas Valley from multiple balconies or the top-of-the-tower game room with its own pool and elevator that makes such digs special.
As in nearly everything in real estate, It’s the location.
Residents can walk out the front door to the Strip, one of the hottest entertainment venues in the world. They can walk to a show, arranged by concierge service, or be taken there by arranged limo.
“It’s a great lifestyle,” Miles said. “As you saw downstairs, you pull up; a valet parker grabs your car and up you go. You can have food delivered; you can have anything you need brought to the unit. It makes it like basically living in a hotel except you have the luxury of your own residence.”
While international is a larger part of the audience, it’s a diverse group looking to live like this. Not everyone lives in the penthouse, of course. Smaller studios with less stunning views sell as low as $250,000, he said. And Las Vegas has high-rise living also in downtown and in more suburban areas, like One Queensridge Place, on the west side of the valley.
Those who prefer downtown might be looking for something a little hipper or younger, with a more walkable environment, while the suburban high-rises offer a quieter, slower-paced atmosphere. Privacy and security matter considerably to some of these owners, particularly celebrities who seen enough of the glitter and excitement.
“It’s a choice. It’s secure. It’s convenient,” Miles said of the suburban high-rise living. “There’s a lot of opportunity in that market. Not everyone wants to run to the Strip and party all night long.”
He doesn’t see an explosion of high-rise purchasers in Las Vegas but rather stability with perhaps a slight uptick in demand —but “after dealing with the Las Vegas marketplace for this period of time, stable is wonderful.”
Whether new high-rises are in the offing in the near future depends on multiple economic factors, particularly access to capital and how well the banking system embraces such projects, Miles said.
“There are several things on the books now, but it’s actually getting the financing and rolling them out.”
The relative strength of the U.S. dollar also is a factor when it comes to international clients such as Asians and Canadians, and the price of oil greatly affects potential buyers from the Middle East.
That doesn’t matter much for another strong client base, though — California — where the economy is relatively strong, real estate is more expensive, and it’s close, familiar and easy to get to.
“There’s nothing like a good time in Las Vegas — to get you out of LA,” Miles said.
Hal DeKeyser is the director of product development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.